Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Umberto Giordano: Marcella
11 Oct 2009

Giordano: Marcella

Although this DVD comes on the Naxos label, an earlier CD version of the same performance went under the Dynamic label, specialists in rare repertory.

Umberto Giordano: Marcella

Marcella: Serena Daolio; Giorgio: Danilo Formaggia; Drasco: Pierluigi Dilengite; Clara: Natalizia Carone; Raimonda: Angelica Girardi; Eliana: Mara D'Antini; Lea: Maria Rosa Rondinelli; Vernier: Marcello Rosiello; Barthélemy: Giovanni Coletta; Flament: Graziano De Pace. Slovak Chamber Choir. Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia. Manlio Benzi, conductor. Alessio Pizzech, stage director. Filmed at the Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca, Italy, on 4-6 August 2007 as part of the 33rd Festival of the Valle d'Itria, Italy.

Naxos 2.110263 [DVD]

$9.99  Click to buy

Umberto Giordano’s Marcella certainly qualifies as rare - a one-act opera in three episodes, under 70 minutes in length. This mid-career work came after Giordano’s early successes (notably Andrea Chenier), and according to Paul Campion in his fine booklet essay, it “did not appeal to its early audiences,” and later audiences had next to no opportunity to see it at all. One later performance, given “shortly before the Second World War,” might well have been the one to show the work at its best advantage - the cast featured Magda Olivero in the title role with Tito Schipa as her partner.

The Dynamic/Naxos cast, caught at a 2007 staging at the festival Valle D’Italia, pose no threats to the memories of Olivero and Schipa’s careers. Serena Daolio as Marcella must strike us as an unworldly, even timid woman who finds herself passionately and helplessly in love with Giorgio (Danilo Formaggia). Giordano’s compositional style had not progressed much from his more famous work of previous years. Marcella and Giorgio both require ample, rich voices who can pour out their romantic exultations and trauma tirelessly. Without distinctive voices, the effect becomes tiresome, and neither Daolio nor Formaggia have much character to their instruments. She tightens at the top, and he has a darker timbre prone to weak intonation.

Even singers such as Olivero and Schipa probably couldn’t do much to make this opera a success. The story feels both unoriginal and overextended, even at 66 minutes. The first episode takes place in a lively restaurant, rather too schematically designed to have a choral number and some other character interaction before the opera comes down to its essential two-character core. Marcella runs in, scared by some inappropriate behavior (very vague in nature) from a crowd outside. Giorgio comforts her. What she doesn’t know is that Giorgio (in a plot twist too reminiscent of operetta librettos) is a prince in disguise, out to see the world away from the pressures of the court. Giorgio and Marcella fall in love; he idly dreaming that he can escape his responsibilities indefinitely. But he can’t, and Marcella makes a tearful goodbye, realizing she could never be his consort. Improbable and yet uninteresting, this narrative provides very weak support for Giordano’s overheated style, and his melodic invention never catches fire.

Director Alessio Pizzechi tries to bring the piece to life, including having some ladies of doubtful repute traipse in their undergarments through the restaurant. Michele Riccairini’s sets look best in the wooden simplicity of the country home Giorgio and Marcella repair to in the last two episodes. Manlio Benzi conducts the Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, producing a warm, excited sound suitable to the score.

If any fan of Giordano’s must have this piece, the DVD has sound as good as the CD, and at least some modest visual appeal. But Marcella the opera is unlikely to have any happier fate that its title character endures.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):